Council looks at financing options for White Flint infrastructure
Mix of options will likely be required, officials say
Montgomery County Council members are working to figure out how to pay for nearly $900 million in infrastructure improvements to prepare for the 9,800 new homes and nearly 6 million square feet of commercial space that could be coming to White Flint over the next 30 years.
They hope to have basic financing strategies in place by the time the draft White Flint Sector Plan, which will govern growth near the White Flint Metro station in North Bethesda, is approved. The plan is expected to go to the council for approval in March.
A mix of several strategies will likely be needed to pay for the infrastructure, county finance director Jennifer Barrett said at a Jan. 26 joint worksession with the council's Management and Fiscal Policy and Planning, Housing and Economic Development committees.
The strategies include: impact taxes, one-time assessments on builders made when permits are issued; excise taxes, such as those on fuel or parking; development districts, which would tax properties within a designated area; tax increment financing, a mechanism to pay for projects with future tax revenue; and bonds, according to council documents.
Any of these strategies should abide by several financing principles, Barrett said. Those include ensuring taxes don't increase beyond the county's legal limit, securing revenue streams to pay debt from bonds, maintaining the county's bond rating, providing revenue in a timely manner, and creating a uniform and equitable approach to who pays, according to council documents.
The committees will discuss the financing options presented at the meeting on Feb. 9. Council members hope to have a basic financing concept ready when the White Flint plan goes to the full council, Councilman Michael J. Knapp (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown said in an interview.
"It's probably our first plan in the county that's not just new development but redevelopment," said Knapp, chairman of the planning committee. "...In order to really make this work and enable redevelopment to happen, we're going to need a significant amount of infrastructure to be paid for by the private and public sectors."
During the Jan. 26 meeting, Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park cautioned that infrastructure improvements must be made as development occurs.
"We've got to be cognizant of the dangers of piecemeal development and then not being able to put the infrastructure in place until we have a critical mass. If we do that then the problems will be on top of us before we get the resources to address the problem," he said. "...You can't solve the kinds of problems that we're going to visit on this community with an improvement here and an improvement there ... We're going to need a broad and comprehensive approach different from what we've done before."
Council members also said that any financing plan should ensure that money generated for infrastructure in White Flint stay in White Flint.
Barnaby Zall, founder of the nonprofit organization Friends of White Flint, agreed with that concept.
"The county needs to give people the confidence that the financing will be there. Everyone wants to know that the infrastructure will be paid for," he said. "...But the most important thing about the financing is the timing of it. You can have the most wonderful financing in the world but if it's not there at the time, it's not going to get done."